NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – The formalities of the past few days are now over and it’s time for teams to embark on the 4000km adventure in Kenya and Tanzania from Thursday as the East African Safari Classic Rally revs off.
Coast fans who turned out for the event at Vipingo Ridge in North Coast were treated to some exhilarating displays of rallying artistry.
The shakedown was preceded by scrutineering at Sarova Whitesands where organisers spent the better part of the morning inspected the cars.
Defending Champion Stig Blomqvist was all smiles but candidly admitted that weather conditions will play a part in determining the winner of this year’s Kenya Airways East African Safari Rally.
The 1984 World Rally Champion said the current wet situation will make or break for crews depending on how things go.
Blomqvist said that the wet weather will nevertheless rekindle memories of the old type Safari Rally.
“It seems to be very tricky at the moment with the wet weather but that’s Safari. I was out there testing the car and all seemed to be okay. We will see what the weather brings out there,” Blomqvist said.
“There are drivers with lots of experience so it should be interesting. We are looking forward to see old friends, a good event and good competition too. There are lots of old and young guys in the competition who want to prove their machines worth so we can only hope for the best,” he added.
Blomqvist in a Porsche 911 will be the first one off the ramp ahead of 36 cars followed by multiple former Kenya champion Carl Tundo who is back the world toughest historic rally in a Top Fry sponsored Triumph TR7.
Carl has won the ARC Safari four times but has yet to lay his hands on the coveted Safari Classic title since making his driving debut two years ago.
Tundo started his classic Safari career navigating for his best friend Alastair Cavenagh who is missing in action this time round.
Ian Duncan has won the Safari twice and will be attempting the unprecedented third win behind the wheel of a Ford Capri.
Duncan, the most successful Kenya National Rally Championship driver, is seeded fourth behind multiple former Kenya champion Baldev Chager who will be making his debut on the driving seat after navigating former Kenya National Division Two Champion Onkar Rai on the last two editions.
And having already taken some impressive scalps in the KNRC , Chager or the “Flying Singh” can surely not be taken lightly despite his debut on the driving seat.
Chager will drive one of the three Porsche 911 sponsored by Kabras Sugar which is a sister brand to Tundo’s Top Fry.
Vipingo Ridge in North Coast was a beehive of activity yesterday as classic drivers treated spectators to some exhilarating displays of rallying artistry prior to the start proper on Thursday.
This year’s Safari Classic Rally includes a number of significant tweaks to the rally regulations, which have encouraged many new European competitors to ship their cars to Africa for the nine-day event. Power steering is now permitted on the grounds of comfort and safety, and the cut-off age for cars has been stretched to 1985.
While four wheel-drive and turbocharged cars remain ruled out for safety and balance of performance reasons, extending the age range brings new cars to Safari, including the Group B Mazda RX-7 of respected Le Mans and Dakar Rally competitor, Frenchman Philippe Gache..
Kenyans Jonathan Somen and partner Richard Hechle have done three Safari Classics and this year will be their fourth. Some was all smiles.
“In 2015, we had just climbed into the top 10 when we our “eye” in our distributor failed and our crew were miles away as we were still on the tarmac out of Arusha. We then had another distributor failure the next day which was the last day so this year’s classic is unfinished business for us. We are aiming for a top ten finish this year,” Somen stated.
Somen and Hechle were Kenyan classic champions once though they don’t do the full season in the years of the Classic.
Some other locals to watch include Raaji Singh Bharij and Rajay Sehmi who will be unveiling Kenya’s first ever locally uild Porsche 911.
Driver Bharij was upbeat after shakedown.
“We are mentality excited but fatigued. I mean it’s been a long journey building the car. And Rajay and I like doing most of it ourselves, so it has been really good coz I know the car very well, mechanically. We are tired but very excited. The quality of entry this year is good so we look forward to some very good competition.”
HOW THEY WILL START
- Stig Blomqvist /Matias Edelson (TEAM TIDO-Porsche 911/SWEDEN)
- Carl Tundo /Tim Jessop (Triumph TR7/KENYA)
- Baldev Singh Chager (KABRAS SUGAR RACING-Porsche 911/KENYA)
- Ian Duncan (Ford Capri/KENYA)
- Geoff Bell (BEST WHYSKEY-Datsun 260Z/SOUTH AFRICA)
- Jorge Perez Companc (VIKING MOTORSPORTS-Ford Escort RS1800/ARGENTINA)
- Richard Jackson (Porsche 911/GREAT BRITAIN)
- Raaji Bharij (Intra Africa Insurace-Porsche 911/KENYA)
- Onkar Singh Rai (KABRAS SUGAR RACING -Porsche 911-KENYA)